Tommaso first met Vince way back in 2005 (Picture: WWE)
Tommaso Ciampa has reflected on the first time he met WWE boss Vince McMahon and how Triple H created a ‘weird’ but wonderful vibe.
The current NXT Champion may have signed with the company in 2015, but he actually made his first appearance on SmackDown back in 2005 when the wrestler – then a relative rookie with less than a year under his belt – played Muhammad Hassan’s lawyer, who got laid out by The Undertaker.
It was an amazing introduction to WWE for someone who’d grown up a huge fan, as he exclusively told Metro.co.uk: ‘. I mean, it was one of the coolest experiences ever for a 20-year-old kid to be in there with Undertaker. This is a dude I grew up admiring and loving.’
However, the surreal experience went far beyond simply being on the show, as Ciampa can still ‘vividly’ recall the moment he was called into Vince’s office for a rehearsal.
‘There was a point in the day I still remember so vividly today where I had to do a rehearsal in front of Vince where I would read my lawyer script,’ he added. ‘When I finally got to go into Vince’s room, hunter was making protein shakes.
‘It’s just one of those things that to this day – I walked in so nervous, the second I saw him in a muscle tank top making protein shakes offering one to Vince, all my tension and nerves just went away.
Tommaso ended up working for Triple H day-to-day in NXT (Picture: WWE)
‘It was like, “Oh this is like two dudes in the gym, these are the people I grew up around”. It’s such a weird thing but it was like, I still remember that feeling and it’s something that I’ve carried with me.’
Now, 16 years later, he is at the top of NXT 2.0 as the developmental brand pushes on in a new era focused on truly building the future of WWE.
After winning the gold – which was vacated by former champ Samoa Joe – in a Fatal 4 Way featuring Pete Dunne, LA Knight and newcomer Von Wagner, Ciampa is looking forward to bringing out the best in everyone on the roster.
‘I love it because whether I’m in there with Joe, Kyle [O’Reilly] or Pete or I’m in there with Bron Breakker, Carmello [Hayes] or Odyssey [Jones], I don’t have to change who I am or how I interact,’ he pondered.
‘Even if it’s an LA Knight, across the board, it gives me a lot of freedom, so I’m excited for that. I hope that’s what happens over the next three, six months, a year, whatever it be, because there’s so many fun stories we can tell.
‘I think that the character Tommaso Ciampa on NXT 2.0 right now could really bring out a different side for a lot of other guys. I’m hoping that’s what happens, I’m hoping that I’m able to bring out the best over the next six to 12 months.’
After building a reputation on the independent scene – which was boosted by a great stint in Ring of Honor – Ciampa has only added to his legacy over the past six years.
One thing he’s adamant he won’t ever lose sight of is his fandom and love for pro wrestling, with the fire burning bright to this day.
He smiled: ‘Just when I think back to being a kid, I wrote a report in second grade and one of things is, “What are you gonna be when you grow up?”
‘I rattled off some stuff – “I might be a basketball player like Michael Jordan, I might do this, I might do that, but whatever I do I know for sure I’m gonna be a professional wrestler.” ‘
He still keeps the note, and he admitted his young mind would be blown knowing he would one day have a key to let him into the Performance Center where he can train with and learn from legends.
‘It’s never gonna hit a point for me – I hope it never hits a point for me – where I lose sight of that, because it’s the coolest thing ever, man,’ he said. ‘Not a lot people get to live their dream job – the fact I get to do it, it’s just the best, dude.’
*WWE NXT 2.0 airs Tuesday nights at 1am on BT Sport 1.